Upper Deck, Eisner both seeking to buy Topps

Associated
Press

The Upper
Deck Co. has made a pitch to buy The Topps

Co.,
a bid that would join two iconic baseball card makers that have sold sports
memorabilia to generations of fans young and old.

The offer
price of $10.75 a share trumps a bid earlier this year from a group of
investors led by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Topps, maker of baseball
cards and Bazooka bubble gum, said Thursday it was not sure Upper Deck’s bid is
a superior offer.

Eisner’s
Tornante Co. LLC and the Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn
Partners LLC had agreed to pay $9.75 a share, which represented a premium of
9.4 percent when they first made the offer in early March. That deal received
regulatory approval on April 3 and has been scheduled for a shareholder vote on
June 28.

The group
led by Eisner agreed to let New York-based Topps negotiate with Upper Deck,
which is in

Carlsbad,

Calif.

Topps,
founded in 1938, makes trading cards that feature athletes of Major League
Baseball, the NFL and NBA. In addition to Bazooka bubble gum, it owns the Ring
Pop and Push Pop brands and makes sticker album collections.

The
Eisner-led deal had been opposed by three out of 10 Topps board members and the
investment firm Crescendo Partners II. Crescendo managing partner Arnaud Ajdler
has a seat on Topps’ board and had argued that the deal undervalued the company
after a “flawed” negotiation process

Eric
Rosenfeld of Crescendo who with Ajdler leads The Committee to Enhance Topps said Thursday that the firm was reviewing the proposal from Upper Deck.

Upper Deck
had originally expressed interest during a 40-day “go shop” period
that ended April 14. It has now submitted a new “highly confident” letter
from an unnamed commercial bank. Topps said it had been concerned about Upper
Deck’s ability to finance the deal, as well as its insistence on limiting its
liability if antitrust regulators do not approve the deal.

A call to
Upper Deck was not immediately returned.

Eisner was
CEO of The Walt Disney

Co. for two decades
until 2005. Disney owns theme parks, movie studios and the ABC, ESPN and Disney
TV networks.

Shares of
Topps rallied 45 cents on the news, nearly 5 percent, to $10.23 in midday
trading Thursday.